Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Is This World Series of Poker Cheating Allegation Real?

Accused poker cheat
The Las Vegas Review Journal published this article about suspicions of cheating at the World Series of Poker. Have a read and then check out my take on it.

 World Series of Poker officials said they are investigating allegations that a player cheated his way to a fifth-place finish in one of its most prestigious tournaments. The alleged incident took place during the $10,000 Heads-Up No-limit Hold ‘em Championship that ended Thursday and were levied against Valeriu Coca of Moldova. “We are aware, monitoring very closely with all the resources at our disposal. Those include surveillance/security, forensic examination of cards, etc,” WSOP tournament director Jack Effel wrote on Twitter.

“We take integrity very seriously, as evidenced by our lifetime bans, and would enjoy nothing more than catching a cheater in our midst.” Coca defeated five opponents in the Heads-Up Championship before losing to eventual winner Keith Lehr in the quarterfinals Wednesday at the Rio Convention Center.

According to PokerNews.com, Connor Drinan believed there were several irregularities in Coca’s play during their match in the round of 32 and posted his concerns on the TwoPlusTwo online poker forum early Thursday. Drinan also spoke with other players who faced Coca in the tournament and had similar suspicions. The players then contacted Effel later Thursday and WSOP officials began their probe.

“We take these types of allegations very seriously & an investigation began immediately upon learning them. It is ongoing,” WSOP spokesperson Seth Palansky wrote on Twitter. “Preliminary testing of cards show no markings or use of any foreign solution. Further tests will be done to confirm initial.” Palansky wrote in a text message Friday morning that the cards from the tournament remain out for testing and that officials will be “thorough in conducting” their investigation.

Coca collected $54,545 for his fifth-place finish and denied any wrongdoing in an interview with PokerNews.com. “This is a fantasy,” Coca told the website through a translator. “The players who lost are very good, so they just don’t believe they could lose to me for an honest reason.”

My take: Well, the only poker-cheat vehicle I see here is card-marking and that would be very unlikely at an event as prestigious as the World Series of Poker. I know that Coca has been accused of marking cards in poker games in the Czech Republic, but to pull it off successfully would be much more difficult at the world's most important tournament. In the '90s the WSOP was rampant with poker-collusion cheating syndicates, but today with such huge numbers of players entering the tournaments, even the ages-old collusion-cheating methods would be difficult to pull of fruitfully. Thus I would have to agree with the accused poker cheat here and say it's just a bunch of losers who don't know how to lose.

However, in the WSOP ring games, where real cash changes hands with rapidity, the poker-collusion cheat teams are much more rampant.